Lightroom Printing Tutorial

Learn how Lightroom can help photographers produce good quality prints from home.

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Article by Robin Whalley -

This is part two to Robin's printing in Lightroom article. Click the following link if you've missed part one: Printing From Lightroom - Part 1

Having reviewed the various layout options, let’s examine how the print appears in the centre of the screen (see the next screen shot). Here you can see the image displayed in the centre of a white rectangle; this represents the paper you will print to. Around the image is a black box; this is the image cell. Notice how the image doesn’t fill the cell vertically, only horizontally. This is because I didn’t select the "Zoom to Fill" option in the "Image Settings" section described above. If I had, the image would have been as large as the cell both vertically and horizontally but it would have also been cropped on either side to make it fit as the cell dimensions differ from the image.

Now look carefully around the very edge of the paper area and you will see a faint grey boarder and in each corner are two fine grey lines. The fine grey lines represent the margins applied to the paper when printing. You can adjust them by either clicking and dragging the line or using the Left, Right, Top and Bottom margin sliders under the "Layout section" as described previously.

Lightroom Printing

In the example above the grey boarder (which is the area of the paper the printer can’t print to) is the same as the margins. This need not be the case and you can set larger margins if you wish. You also don’t need to keep all the margins the same on each side and can alter these to control where on the paper your image will appear. If for example you are printing a square image on an A4 sheet you might want to place the image at the top of the page so that there is a much heavier boarder at the bottom.

The next section of the interface on the right is "Guides" and is shown in the following screen shot to the left.

Here you can turn off all the screen guides that we have just covered or you can disable these selectively. I should also point out that none of the guides are printed in the final image:

1. "Rulers" appear along the top and left hand side of the central part of the interface so that you can see the dimensions of the page. They also help you to manually place other guides such as “Margins” if you are dragging these.

2. "Page Bleed" is the unprintable grey area around the edge of the page.

3. "Margins and Gutters". Margins appear around the edge of the page and control the space between the image cell and the edge of the page. A gutter is the space between two or more cells.

4. "Image Cells" displays a black boarder around the image cell so that you can see it but this doesn’t appear in the final print.

5. "Dimensions" displays the dimensions of the image cell next to each cell.

Layout Style and Page

The next section on the right hand side is “Page” and is shown in the above screen shot to the right.

Under the "Page" section you will find a whole host of options to control the information provided on the printed output such as file name and watermarking. These can be useful if you are printing proofs before making a final print. I suggest you explore these separately as we need to get onto the options that really help you to make great prints every time, which are found under the "Print Job" section as shown in the image below right.

Print JobThe "Print Job" panel is where the magic happens and has a number of options:

1. "Print to" allows you to print to either the selected printer (remember you set this up under the “Page Setup” options described earlier) or a jpg file. The option to print to a jpg can be a real time saver if you need to prepare image samples for a client, a web site or a blog. You can create your own template design including image information or perhaps a watermark and then print these to a jpg file ready for publishing or distribution by email.

2. "Draft Mode Printing" prints in a lower resolution to improve speed and use less ink. It is not however suitable for producing a quality image print and I suggest you don’t use it unless you have a specific purpose in mind.

3. "Print Resolution" controls the quality of the printed file. A print of 240ppi will appear photographic quality but you will probably be able to see it is of lesser quality when compared with a print of the same image at 300ppi. 300ppi is the generally recognised standard for producing top quality photographic output although some printers have a native resolution that differs from this and usually improves performance slightly (but we won’t cover that here). Other factors such as image type and paper also play a part in determining the optimum ppi setting, but 300ppi is an excellent default to use.

4. "Print Sharpening" controls the level of sharpening to be applied to your print as it is sent to the printer and is an important variable in obtaining consistently high print quality. The approach you should use is to sharpen your image to the desired level prior to printing. The sharpening in this section is designed to compensate for the softening effect caused by actually printing the image. Ensure you select the correct "Media Type" for your paper which is either Glossy or Matte as this affects how the sharpening is applied. You should then select the level of "Print Sharpening" which can be "Low", "Standard" or "High". Make this decision based on the detail in the image for example the image shown in my screen shots above contains lots of fine detail so might benefit from a high level of sharpening. Had the image been of clouds, I would have set the sharpening to “Low”. If you are in doubt, set the level to “Standard”. Unfortunately you don’t get any preview as the sharpening is applied on output. For this reason you might decide to sharpen your image for output visually in the develop module and turn off the output sharpening. If you do decide to do this, try setting your view to “1:2” (50% magnification) as this gives a closer approximation to the printed output than viewing the image at "1:1". My personal preference is to use the print sharpening in the Printing module.

5. "Color Management" is possibly the most important setting in the "Print Module" if you are going to produce a physical print on a printer. The options here are "Managed by Printer" or one of the printer profiles installed to your computer. As you can see from the screen shot below I have a number of profiles configured to display for easy selection. Clicking on the "Other..." option at the bottom of the list would display all my machines profiles. This is where you can configure the list (if you are not familiar with printer profiles they are explained shortly). In this section it is important that you select a printer profile for your particular printer and paper combination; do not select the "Managed by Printer" option as it is likely to result in sub-standard output. Once you have selected a printer profile you will see that the "Rendering" option becomes available. I won’t go into why here but the best option for general printing is likely to be "Perceptual".

Managed by printer

6. The "Print Adjustment" option allows you to amend the "Brightness" and "Contrast" of your output. People have often complained that their prints don’t match what is displayed on the screen even when using the correct printer profile. These sliders allow you to compensate for this variation. I have actually found different levels of adjustment will produce small improvements and different papers need different levels of adjustment. Don’t worry however if you don’t want to use these as in my experience they only give a marginal improvement that many people won’t notice.

This tutorial continues in Part three

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